For those of you who know me, it should come as no surprise that my heart in learning and development very much lies with the power of the innate potential that each and everybody harbors. If I were to ask if you resonate with my vision, you’d probably say: “yes, yes I do” and probably even wholeheartedly.

Here’s the thing, though. What if we were to boldly broaden this positive perspective beyond learning and on to organizational development? What if teams of ‘high potentials’ were to undertake projects to improve what they’re jointly driven and committed to doing? Not by following some managerial directive, but by finding and following their own intrinsic drive for improvement.


This inspiring idea is what the Forzes network of professionals, which my partners and I founded in 2013, is becoming known for. We’re extending the idea of workplace learning from a focus on learning and performance to one of organizational development. We’re engineering impact, so to say.

Helen van Efferen and I put together a learning and organizational development program such as this for the municipality of Zaanstad. It’s called “Prachtig Potentieel”, which translates to “Beautiful Potential”.
The business case for the program and our subsequent involvement is a direct consequence of the policy of the Dutch government to further delegate tasks, targets and budgets to municipalities, like Zaanstad. The driver is: whatever we can do locally we should, we shouldn’t be doing it centrally from The Hague.
The impact of this policy is tremendous: in financial, organizational and personal terms. Municipalities have seen an extension of their budgets, but not enough to cover the extension of their remit. Consequently, Zaanstad feels the need to streamline their ways of working and to find and implement new and smarter processes.
The participants in ‘Beautiful Potential’ play a vital role in this ongoing organizational optimization. As case managers, they work in neighborhoods and directly with constituents to solve - often intractable - problems such as debt, unemployment, poverty and domestic violence. It’s their task to help these people and families to actively participate in our society. When this all comes together properly the benefits are massive, for the people of the region and Zaanstad alike. For example, every resident that finds themselves a job, means the unemployment benefits’ budget can be lowered.

Just yesterday I had the great privilege to facilitate an action learning session with two of project teams in ‘Beautiful Potential’. And: the heat is on. Within less than a month we’re wrapping up the program and the project teams are finalizing their deliverables. I feel so proud and grateful to witness how they’ve grown both personally and professionally. As well as being able to see what they’ve could achieve in such a short time span. One team built process maps for a restructuring taking place in four months’ time. The other built a talent tree that case managers can use with clients. This tool places a positive perspective on these personal situations and the prototype has been embraced with enthusiasm by the beta-testers.

My personal take away from designing, building and facilitating Beautiful Potential is that ordinary people in operational roles can work miracles. Miracles that will positively impact the bottom line of their organizations. There’s just one caveat. Do we all believe that it’s possible? Can we as facilitators help their leaders embrace a management style based on trust and support? Can we? Will we?

Will you share your story on the power of potential?